Well, my life has been anything but quiet…but I’ve managed to take a five month break without even trying. In my last post (July 22) I spoke about putting together some info on Songs of Prophecy. I’ve done that, but just not taken the time to post it. Five months later, I’m in the afterglow of a pretty nice presentation of the piece two days ago.

The piece went well, and even exceeded my expectations. It was the first time I’ve written an extended work with handbells (the piece includes handbells, choir and string quartet), so it was, for me, a bit experimental. The handbell writing worked, although I tended to write the part a little thin. We ended up adding notes to fill out chords (handbells are more homophonic than linear, imho, although my linear parts fit nicely with the strings and voices).

We’re in the middle of a big house remodel (we moved in with my Dad almost 2 years ago)–roof and windows done first (last summer, just about the time I stopped writing here). Currently we’re in the midst of walls, floors, bathrooms–it’ll be great when it’s done (did I mention kitchen next?).

I’ll post the info on Songs of Prophecy soon, as well as update on some of my other musical activities. I need to put some quality time into updating my my composition list on New Music Jukebox before the end of the year (they are putting together a compilation for an upcoming Chamber Music America conference–it’d be nice to have some of my recent chamber works included).

Even though I have to leave the house these days to hear it (unless I want to write an homage to Varese, or an update of The Anvil Chorus)–

it’s music to my ears.

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Dies Irae (trans. it’s d**n hot!)

Did I say that it was hot today? As I write this at 9:45 in the evening, it is still 95 degrees F. outside. That’s hot, even for this part of California, where a little heat in the summer is a worthwhile price to pay for generally quite temperate weather.

I’m working on several posts that I hope will come to completion over the next week.

  • An index of my compositions that I have mentioned here. As part of that I hope to provide some missing but promised mp3s.
  • A fuller description of Songs of Prophecy. I’m in the process of compiling pdfs and jpegs (but before I can, I need to proofread the score; that’ll probably take as much time as the initial writing of the piece!).
  • A comparison of my use of the text with Jennens’ Messiah libretto. His work was masterful. My deconstruction and rearrangement is…I guess we’ll wait and see.

There will be more. I read through parts of a couple of Mozart 4-hand Sonatas tonight: I hope our hosts for the evening don’t have too much trouble cleaning up all the misused and abused notes we left lying around. Somewhere between Mozart and Adams…

it’s music to my ears…

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Songs of Prophecy

In my last post, andante down the lazy river I mentioned that I was starting a Christmas Cantata. It’s basically done, and I’m rather pleased by the results. Of course, if I didn’t like it, it wouldn’t be done, or wouldn’t see the light of day! The reason it took so long (5 days) was that I did have to eat and sleep…not to mention make some music at church, teach an organ lesson, and do those pesky chores that just mount up and make the environs miserable until you pay attention to them…

The piece is called Songs of Prophecy. It uses 8 of the texts that Jennens, the librettist of Handel’s Messiah included in what we know as the Christmas portion. I’ve long wanted to make my own work on the whole set of Messiah texts, but wisely set a less lofty goal for this piece.

Jennens generally has a very nice recitative, song, chorus form that focuses and organizes things very well. I totally ignored that form, although roughly speaking solo or soli voice alternates with chorus–but no real recitative.

I know, you’d like examples, and I don’t have time right now. OK, here’s one score excerpt:
And it sounds roughly like this mp3 without any editing or real balancing of voices (the first violin is a bit shrill on my computer).

My intent was to write a piece we could use in worship, so I wanted it under 20 minutes (I’m at about 16 and a half). In addition to satb chorus, I wrote for string quartet and handbells. I was fascinated how that altered my usual textures. I tended to opt for repeated peals, open harmonies, and a good degree of pentatonic writing.

This was just plain fun to write. I couldn’t wait to get up and start writing to see how the next movement was going to come out. It has its derivative elements: African choral music, minimalism, Orff, and I also hear Adams (this Adams, that is), particularly from my Needham Psalter. The combination of chorus, strings and handbells is wonderful.

I’ll post more soon on this project. I’m preparing a table comparing the use of the texts in Handel’s piece and mine; I’d like to say something about each movement and how I felt the text flowed from movement to movement. And so on. And, as you would expect:

It’s music to my ears…

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andante down the lazy river

Well, it is summer. And it’s been more weeks than I like since I posted. No good reason. Oh yeah–there were the various tasks and projects I mentioned in my last post. We refinanced Dad’s house, moved his IRA, and will have new windows in the house in a couple of weeks. I’ve written some music (surprise!) and will be posting about a couple of new pieces soon.

I’ve also started a project I’ve been resisting, because it means focusing on something besides writing new music. With Jeremy’s able assistance, I’m starting a major revision of my website. I’m working on a master list of all my compositions (well, those worth seeing the light of day!) with accompanying information pages, and score and audio excerpts. I’ve been resisting for months, but finally gave in. If you want to check out the work in progress, click here.

By the time I’m done, I hope to have all my scores and recordings on a couple of DVDs, as well as a pretty full website. I’m also going to make sure that full scores and information get posted on the American Music Center’s New Music Jukebox.

The rest of the month should be full

  • I’m starting a Christmas cantata for satb chorus, string quartet, and handbells.
  • I’ve developed the concept for a children’s musical for church. The book will need much work before I can actually put in music.
  • I just set my current church’s mission statement to music; it’s upbeat and about as pop contemporary as I get these days. I look forward to putting it to work.
  • Developed a second sequence on Nicea (“Holy, Holy, Holy”). It’ll be the prelude this Sunday.
  • On the non-musical front, there’s a lot of cleanup, both at Dad’s house and ours, particularly if we decide to move back to our place while the windows are put in

A little golf, work around the Yarn Boutique, nagging Dad to get some exercise rather than just sitting around the house all day (and coincidentally reminding Marianne and me to do the same!), and other important family and friends things fill up my dance card.

Summertime in California (as long as the wildfires keep their distance) is delightful music to my ears…

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dal Segno

I’ve made some good progress this past week on the list I posted last week, and also had a couple of neat creative experiences. First, the list:

  • Dad’s finances: while it never ends, we are about to close on a loan which will allow us to fix up Dad’s house
  • Beginning stages of fixup work on Dad’s house: windows are ordered; final preliminary plans for other needed work should be done this week
  • 2005 ASCAPlus list: done and submitted (as prep for next year, I’m updating a sadly out-of-date “What’s New” section of my website that really makes putting the list together much easier)
  • Making an SATB version of a recent men’s piece: rehearsals are going well; the piece is scheduled for the end of June
  • Did I mention Dad’s finances?
  • Still looking into some additional sources of income: A couple of part- or short-term teaching slots I was looking into didn’t pan out
  • Dealt with an overbooking at the Kauai condo: a financial loss for us, but I think our guests will be pleased
  • Have I brought up Dad’s finances?

But there were also some nice creative moments this week…

I received a copy of the concert program that flautist Dawn Grapes and organist Joe McConathy presented in Fort Collins on April 30, 2006. They performed two of my works on Jesus Loves Me. The accompanying CD was quite nice. It was a fun program. If I can get permission, I’ll post their performance of my pieces, either here or at New Music Jukebox (a site maintained by the American Music Center where I have a few works posted–I really need to make sure it duplicates my own site).

I composed my postlude for last Sunday: an electronic arrangement of Nicaea (better known as Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty). I basically used a big band setup: lots of saxes, trumpets and trombones, with some guitar and piano assistance. Eventually I hope to have a CD’s worth of pieces (this is number 2). You can hear it here. I’d intended to use a sequencer, but got started with Finale. I added more dynamics and articulation detail than I might have done for acoustic performers.

The main reason I composed Nicaea was so that I wouldn’t have to play a postlude after the service, since, in addition to my usual musical duties, I was preaching the sermon. I had a wonderful time. I was somewhat nervous before getting to the podium, but calmed down as soon as the choir and I started presenting the old testament lesson. I’ve spent a good bit of time over the last two weeks on the sermon–not much different than the sort of time I spend on a new composition, where I am both writing and performing the work.

So it’s been a good week. I hope to have another post in a few days. Until then, it’s all

…music to my ears.

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lento ma non troppo

Well, I’ve not exactly been setting the blogosphere on fire! Life seems to have been pretty full, although there always seems to be a list of things I still have to do. Main sources of time-passing (some more fruitful than others):

  • Dad’s finances
  • Beginning stages of fixup work on Dad’s house (roof, with walls, electrical, windows, plumbing and painting still to come)
  • Getting my 2005 ASCAPlus list done and submitted
  • Making an SATB version of a recent men’s piece (I tried it with the choir last night; it looks to be very successful)
  • Did I mention Dad’s finances?
  • Looking into some additional sources of income, including a couple of part- or short-term teaching slots (but either they’re slow or I’m not in the running!)
  • Dealing with an overbooking at the Kauai condo (communication is REAL important)
  • Have I brought up Dad’s finances?

It seems like music is getting slighted. But I have some thoughts on a couple of upcoming projects…

Project 1

A couple of weeks ago the children presented a musical as part of worship (Sermon on the Mound). It was cute. The kids clearly enjoyed themselves, and had a number of strong moments. The adults who assisted and guided the project also did wonderfully. The song Out in Right Field, recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, is featured–it’s a great moment.

So I started thinking…is it time to write a musical for the kids myself? I’d have a good six months to work on it. I noticed some areas in this work that could be improved upon:

  • The vocal range is too great for kids (at least a 10th, I think). It should be kept within an octave, and not higher than c5 (an octave above middle c).
  • Through-composed or complicated melodies should be minimized (“Right Field” worked–a great example of story-telling in song–but it was sung by an adult). While one doesn’t want the piece reduced to a set of simple choruses, simplicity is important.
  • There’s an almost glib use of bible verses, reflecting the evangelical focus of the author and composer, I sure. Less would be more, I think.

Project 2

I’m playing organ and/or piano for a wedding the first weekend in August (the organ isn’t much). The bride is the daughter of a good friend of high school vintage. I may play more piano than organ, and so I’m thinking of writing a postlude. Probably along the lines of a trumpet voluntary, but for piano rather than organ. Could be a fun challenge.

…and I thought of a project that is still in progress that I’d like to say a few things about: a setting of Isaiah 6:1-8, originally written for chorus and organ, but arranged for chorus, organ and cello. I’m thinking of some comments on the process of transcribing for different resources–both in my music and in some interesting works for violin and organ I purchased recently.

As usual, it’s music to my ears…

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Flutes rule!

…or maybe it’s the flautists who rule. I’m starting to get a steady trickle of interest in my music at my website www.adamsworks.com: an occasional instrumentalist here, a conductor there, but more than any other category–flautists.

Actually, I’ve always found flautists to be interested in pushing the musical envelope. My high school sweetheart played flute: just spending time with me was already taking a risk! Much of my recent flute and keyboard music was written for her niece, just to keep things in the family.

One recent visitor, Sue Agnew, played (it was actually a premiere) my Variations on a French Carol” on Easter at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona. Another, Dawn Grapes, will be playing Meditation on Jesus
Loves Me
and Jesus Loves Me Variations as a set on a recital at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Collins on Sunday, April 30. I’m looking forward to that, even if in absentia.

It’s nice to know that something that’s music to my ears moves others–especially those intrepid flautists–to share that music with other ears.

On a non-musical note, Dad and I return to California later today. I’ll comment more on the trip in an upcoming post. Let’s just say that I have a more intimate understanding of how a toilet works…

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a tempo

Some of my small cadre of most excellent readers have wondered where I’ve been, even going to the extreme of emailing me. Thanks y’all. Things have been busy, and I got out of the habit of posting. I’ve missed it, even as I’ve been busy accompanying a singer in a competition (she was delighted with her second place finish, as was I), preparing for Easter (more on that below), making music in one form or other, including writing several pieces, and in general feeling that life was fairly full.

Today my Dad and I flew to Kauai for 9 days work on his condo in Poipu (well, um, I do plan on a couple bouts of serious golf). It is nice to get away, even as I feel that I’m leaving things on hold (including Marianne’s looong day trying to make sense out of our taxes; it was very unlike her to not remain for the party at the post office when she mailed our stuff this evening–clearly she was tired–and I was thankful for her hard work–she’ll undoubtedly have more to say to me on that matter…).

Easter was very nice. John Knox Pres in Dublin held two services rather than its normal one. Both well attended. I had decided a couple of months ago to have us present Don Francisco’s He’s Alive (listen to the composer’s rendition here. Marianne and I had seen Dolly Parton perform the piece on Leno a number of years ago, and we had performed it ourselves several times. I thought it would be a great piece to combine our 30-voice choir with our Praise Team (10+ singers, several guitars, bass, drums, keyboard) and a brass quartet we put together for Easter.

It took longer than I had hoped (part of the reason for my no-show here). The final score only came together less than a week before we presented the piece. Along the way, I got the idea of combining O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded with He’s alive. A couple of excerpts punctuate the first half of the piece, while the opening melody backs up the singer at a couple of strategic points. A quartet from the praise team also sings backup, while both singing ensembles provide a wonderful antiphonal effect at the final He’s Alive chorus.

I’d already started working on the piece, when it finally appeared on the rader screen of our pastor (a wonderful person with decent musical chops…plus he sings tenor!!!). We first thought it might function as scripture in song, but he had the brainstorm of combining it with his sermon. So a little more than two weeks ago, I’m back doing another rewrite.

It was worth the trouble. We alternated sermon and song, ending with the rousing finale of He’s Alive…followed immediately by the Hallelujah Chorus. It made Easter special for many of us who were there—even though we might like to fix up a wrong note here and a bad entrance there. As a composer, or rather, in this case, arranger, I was delighted both by the energy and enthusiasm of the musicians and the response of the congregation.

I’m hoping we got a halfway decent recording. If not, it’s about time to take on a special project, and a recording might just fill the bill. I’m looking forward to taking on some other compositional work after some relaxation and reflection on the last couple of months.

It’s been (soli deo gloria) music to my ears…

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ad libs 2

I’m about to head off to church. In the middle of the week. We (musicians, clergy, other church staff) actually do work more than one hour on Sunday. I’ve a meeting before staff meeting. Then staff meeting. Then a working lunch planning music for Lent. THEN I get to make music: some practice time, followed by an accompanying session (I’m working with a vocalist who is preparing for a competition). A few things have happened since I last wrote…

…I heard my cousin Michael play several selections from my Norwegian Suite at the dedication recital at the Norwegian Seaman’s Church in San Francisco. Nice. What was even better, both he and the audience liked the music. I’m quite pleased. He goes back to Norway in a day or two.

…I wrote a contemporary piece for church, to be sung/played by our Praise Team (guitars, bass, drums, solo and ensemble vocal parts). Basically not unlike the pop music I played earlier in my career, but with a strong spiritual bent. It’s been a fascinating project, particularly since, as soon as I write for voices, I start thinking chorally, rather than solo voices at microphones. Even though they are both ensembles, they’re different. More about that in an upcoming post.

…I received an email from a former student, Andy Toomey, who recounted my (virtual) presence in a recent dream. It’s rather comforting to think that former students might see their former professors as having saintly aspects…

…I gotta stop writing hard music! I’ve been practicing the piano part to my Christmas Toccata, written for piano and organ. In December Kymry Esainko (a wonderful pianist) and I (on organ) premiered the piece at a WomenSing concert. This time around I’m learning the piano part. It’s HARD. I feel like I’m back learning my scales. There are a number of scale passages which are nice and flashy. I wrote them because I knew Kymry would make them sound wonderful. I guess you gotta watch what you write, because you may end up having to play it! On the plus side, it’s doing wonders for my piano technique.

…I hit the golf links twice in a one-week period. Or should I say, the links hit me. Scores higher than I wanted. But great excercise (18 holes walking through the mud. Lots of walking as wayward shots went…wayward…). Can’t wait for my next round!

…I’m off to my first meeting. In the long run–

it’s music to my ears.

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con brio

When I first thought about this post, I was going to offer some thoughts about my trip to Las Vegas earlier in the month for a music conference…then I got started updating my web site and noticed that the last week or so has actually been rather busy compositionally.

It’s actually been just over a week since I finished my Suite on Norwegian Folk Tunes for my cousin Michael. It’s been a long time coming, relatively speaking. I generally work quite fast, but this piece has been on its way for a couple of months. The link above gives some info on the piece, but no mp3 as yet. That will probably wait until Michael performs the work on February 5 in San Francisco. In the meantime I’ll work on an electronic version.

Lst Tuesday was particularly busy. I’d thought about writing a prelude for tomorrow’s worship service, and relating it to the piece our children’s choir was singing. Out of that came a neat Variations on Kumbaya. I love the slight African-inspired feel, with a rich composite rhythm as pedal and both hands–each playing fairly simple lines–combine their different but related rhythms. I’ll have an mp3 soon (I’d like to get a performance recording, rather than relying on an audio version of the notated score).

That was Tuesday morning. In the evening I decided to see if I could come up with a piece that combined two hymns I’d been asked to play at the end of a memorial service I was playing the next day. The combination seemed unpromising. When I’d thought about it, and messed around a bit, I ended up with Quodlibet on Olivet and Battle Hymn. It seemed to work, but I wouldn’t know until I had some time on the organ bench.

I basically got in two rehearsal sessions the next day before the memorial at 13:30 hours. The piece worked; people were happy. The rest of the week was filled with rehearsals…and one session of golf from which, 24 hours later, I’m still feeling muscles I’d forgotten I had!

So musically it was a good week. It was also rather nice dining out Wednesday with Marianne and my Dad before Marianne’s rehearsal, and going to a party last night celebrating Wolfie’s 250th birthday (that’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart…). A crab feast at church tonight, a concert to attend at Grace Cathedral tomorrow afternoon, followed by a quick return to church for Annual Meeting round out the social calendar. The beginning of our weekend (now pushed back to 8:00 pm–20 hours–on Sunday) can’t come too soon.

But with Mozart, music-making, and time spent with loved ones–it’s all music to my ears.

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